#19-blog-categories-and-tags

Too few authors realize that writing that engaging blog post is only a job halfway done when it comes to making sure it’s seen by potential readers. You’ll also want to wisely select your categories and tags, and choose a focus keyword for each post. Only then should you click that publish or schedule button!

Defining Author Blog Categories

Think of your categories like chapters of your weblog, or a table of contents. Categories represent general topic ideas. For example, we may tag a post Facebook or Pinterest if we talk about those social media sites, but the Category is the broader “Author Social Media.”

One of the key differences between the categories on your author blog post and tags, is that tags are optional; categories are not. If you don’t create/select a category it gets lumped into “Uncategorized” and you can be pretty sure that’s not a term readers are looking for at your site.

Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 2.44.24 PMHint: While you cannot delete the “Uncategorized” category, you can rename it. That way, in case you accidentally forget to categorize your post it will automatically “default” to that category. We named ours Author Marketing.

Many of your posts may be relevant in more than one category, and that’s perfectly okay. The updated WordPress does allow you to choose a “Primary” category. In the example shown at right, this post is mostly about Author Blogging Tips, but also falls into the broader topic of author marketing and author websites; we’ve checked the boxes for each of those categories and selected Author Blogging Tips as our Primary category.
How many categories you decide upon will depend on how much your content varies. If an author is writing about their life in general, you may have a category for writing, one for book events, one for traveling, one for family or pets or…  A more complicated site (or one with a lot of content) will have more categories. We recommend keeping it to under 8 or 9, especially if you’re not blogging as often, as the less blogged-in categories will tend to look stagnant to new visitors if there isn’t fresh content.
If you have too many categories now, it will take a few hours to knock down a few and/or combine others, but it’s worth it if your site needs a bit of streamlining.

How Should I Use Tags?

Tags, like categories, help readers find your posts. The similarities end there. Where categories broadly define, tags drill down to describe details of your post. So, if categories are like your blog’s table of contents, tag words are more like your index.

You’re not required to add tags, but they can be quite useful. And there’s no limit to how many tags you can assign a post, so long as they’re relevant to help readers find related content on your site. So, if we mention Elvis once in a blue moon, but the post has little to do with Elvis, and we don’t write about Elvis in any other posts, the tag isn’t really useful to our readers. (In other words, we won’t be tagging the King in this post, because just using his name isn’t of any relevant value to Elvis fans).

Should I Also Include Keywords?

Yes! The final step before you publish a post is to optimize for a focus keyword (we highly recommend the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress). Yoast SEO (formerly known as WordPress SEO by Yoast) incorporates everything from a snippet editor and real time page analysis functionality that helps you optimize your pages content, images titles, meta descriptions and more to XML sitemaps, and loads of optimization options in between.

In layman’s terms — your categories and tags help better define the specific content on your site for readers; your focus keywords (SEO) help better define your site’s content in relation to millions of other sites around the ‘net…

From WordPress – Frequently Asked Questions abut Tags

Do I have to use tags?
The use of tags is entirely optional (although each post must be attached to at least one category).

Are categories and tags hierarchical?
Categories can be arranged in a hierarchy (see the categories widget to learn more). Tags, however, exist in their own right and have no set relationship to anything else.

Is Tag the same as tag ?
Yes. Capital letters do not change a tag. Blogging is the same as blogging.

Is there a limit to the number of tags I can have?
Yes, the sky. In other words, no.

Is there any advantage to using tags or categories, or both?
Your posts will appear in the Topics listings of any tags or categories you use. Therefore, assigning tags and categories to your post increases the chance that other WordPress.com users will see your content.

However, you don’t want irrelevant content showing up on the topics listings or search, and neither do we. That’s why we limit the number of tags that can be used on a public tag listing. Five to 15 tags (or categories, or a combination of the two) is a good number to add to each of your posts. The more tags you use, the less likely it is that your post will be selected for inclusion in the topics listings.

How are the archive URLs different for tags and categories?
If you publish a post attached to a category “food,” the URL will look like this:
http://example.wordpress.com/category/food/

The same post using the tag “food” will look like this:
http://example.wordpress.com/tag/food/

If you publish a post attached to a category “food” and with the tag “rice”, the URLs will look like this:
http://example.wordpress.com/category/food/
http://example.wordpress.com/tag/rice/

Isn’t This a LOT to Do Before Publishing a Post?

YES! It’s all heady subject matter, we know. But a basic understanding of categories and tags and keywords will help your site be more useful to readers and more easily found by potential readers. The learning curve can be a bit uncomfortable, but like any learned skill, after you do it a few times you’ll find you can quickly categorize and tag a post (usually in a minute or less), and optimize your post for your focus keyword(s) in three minutes or less.

The potential payoff is worth the extra five minutes as your site continues to please readers, and ranks higher in searches, bringing you more readers to please! Want to know more? The articles below offer more info in the areas of categories, tags and keywords.

Additional Resources